After pregnancy and baby loss, there are so many milestones, occasions, holidays and celebrations that continue in the world around us, and it can be hard to know how to cope when you are struggling with a devastating personal loss.
We recently spoke to all of our counsellors here at Petals and asked them what advice they tend to give when speaking about this to their clients. Below we have summarized their top 5 tips. We hope they will provide you with some guidance and support.
Please note: although these have been written with Christmas in mind, they can be applied to any religious, cultural or social occasion.
1. Consider how and whether you will include your child in the build up to Christmas, and let others know your plans.
It may be something as simple as buying a new decoration each year with them in mind, lighting a candle each night, donating money or time to charity in their name, or writing their name in your Christmas cards. Friends and family often don’t realise how important this can be, so think about letting them know your wishes in advance.
Equally, do not feel pressure to do anything if it doesn’t feel right for you. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to act.
2. Thinking about what you need in order to look after yourself during the festive period.
It can be difficult to know what this might be, and it can sometimes mean not doing what is expected or hoped by family and friends. When you are grieving, making an effort to be cheerful can be exhausting. But if you can express what you need to those around you this can sometimes help you to feel less pulled in different directions. It can also be a relief to friends and family to know what you need and be able to support you in doing that.
3. You are allowed to celebrate and to grieve.
It’s OK to do both and nobody can force you to do one over the other. Don’t put yourself under pressure to do either or give way to other peoples’ expectations. Try to be kind to yourself and go with what feels right for you.
4. Take time out whenever you need to.
You may need to steal away in the middle of the celebrations. Allow yourself the same compassion you would give a friend in a similar situation. Maybe go for a walk or spend some time alone so that you can be with your thoughts and acknowledge your loss. Try to accept your emotions, however uncomfortable they are. They are part of the connection you have to your child and it’s really important you feel able to express them.
5. Coping with New Year and new beginnings.
Moving forward into a new year can bring mixed feelings – on the one hand it brings opportunity for a fresh start and hope for something new, but it can also feel like another ending and bring a nervousness that we are moving further away from those we grieve for. It is important to remember that this conflict of emotions is a natural part of our grieving process – it is normal to feel this way and to allow ourselves to experience both the pain of loss and the hope and optimism for a new future.
Try not to overthink it and instead, go with how you feel instead. If one day feels tough, be kind to yourself and take it easy, and then on the days that you feel brighter, let the light in and allow yourself to feel some joy.